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Lawsuit filed after alleged dognapping at Yukon's Braeburn Lodge

Taya, a white husky, was allegedly stolen from Yukon's Braeburn Lodge by an ex-employee last week. Lodge owner Steve Watson and manager Legh Knox have filed a lawsuit seeking her return. (Braeburn Lodge/Facebook - image credit)
Taya, a white husky, was allegedly stolen from Yukon's Braeburn Lodge by an ex-employee last week. Lodge owner Steve Watson and manager Legh Knox have filed a lawsuit seeking her return. (Braeburn Lodge/Facebook - image credit)

A legal battle is brewing after a husky was allegedly stolen from the Yukon's Braeburn Lodge by an ex-employee let go after a cinnamon-bun blow-up, the already-sticky situation potentially complicated by the threat of a dog-eating wolf.

Lodge owner Steven Watson and manager Leigh Knox filed a statement of claim to the Yukon Supreme Court on Monday, seeking an order to have a white husky named Taya returned to them.

Court documents allege Taya is in the possession of Laura Cumberland, who worked at the lodge, approximately 100 km north of Whitehorse, until last July. The lawsuit claims Cumberland returned to Braeburn Lodge late last week, took Taya and "fled."

Cumberland has not yet filed a statement of defence and has not responded to CBC News' attempts to contact her for comment.

Lawyer Vincent Larochelle, who's representing Watson and Knox, said his clients are devastated and worried for Taya's wellbeing — particularly because they've seen a large wolf in the area that's already eaten another one of their dogs.

"They are extremely, extremely distressed… I'll say, it's no laughing matter,"  Larochelle said in an interview. "They're very attached to their puppy."

While Knox and Watson reported the situation to police, Larochelle said they were told there was little officers could do.

A Facebook profile that appears to be Cumberland's, albeit under an alias, has posted several images of a white dog over the past week, including a video of a woman cuddling with the dog along with the comment, "Got my baby doggy girl back."

The lawsuit has yet to be tested at trial.

The Braeburn Lodge's Facebook page, meanwhile, has posted a $2,500 reward for Taya's safe return.

Taya, a white husky, was allegedly stolen from Braeburn Lodge by an ex-employee last week. Lodge owner Steve Watson and manager Legh Knox have filed a lawsuit seeking her return.
Taya, a white husky, was allegedly stolen from Braeburn Lodge by an ex-employee last week. Lodge owner Steve Watson and manager Legh Knox have filed a lawsuit seeking her return.

A photo of Taya, posted on the Braeburn Lodge's Facebook page. (Braeburn Lodge/Facebook)

Request to ice cinnamon buns allegedly triggered fall-out

Cumberland, according to an affidavit sworn by Knox, was Taya's original owner and got her as a puppy in July 2022, a few months after she began working at Braeburn Lodge.

Knox wrote that she laid Cumberland off in November 2022 after business started slowing down. Cumberland gave Taya to Knox and Watson a month later, the affidavit claims.

"Since December 2022, Mr. Watson and I have taken care of Taya," Knox wrote.

"We have fed her and trained her as responsible dog owners. Almost every night since then, Taya has slept in my bed at night."

Knox and Watson also took Taya to veterinary appointments, including for shots and to get her microchipped.

Cumberland, in the meantime, was still living at the lodge, but the affidavit alleges she "demonstrated that she was a bad pet owner" by teaching Taya "bad habits" like jumping on customers and, against veterinary advice, walking Taya off-leash after she was newly spayed.

The affidavit says Knox asked Cumberland in the spring of 2023 if she wanted to start working again, with Cumberland eventually agreeing to start on the July long weekend.

Knox, on Canada Day, started preparing cinnamon buns at the lodge and asked Cumberland to put icing on them when she arrived later that morning.

That, court documents allege, didn't go well.

"The defendant freaked out," Knox's affidavit alleges. "She yelled at me and threatened me. She called me the c-word. It was distressing."

What a feast: Racer Gareth Hardcastle reaches for one of Braeburn Lodge's famous cinnamon buns which are as large as a dinner plate.
What a feast: Racer Gareth Hardcastle reaches for one of Braeburn Lodge's famous cinnamon buns which are as large as a dinner plate.

Braeburn Lodge is famous for its big cinnamon buns. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Cumberland requested to be laid off around two weeks later, which Watson and Knox obliged. She was allegedly "outraged" after they asked her to move out of the lodge's guesthouse, and "ran away into a cabin on the side of Braeburn Lake."

"We made it clear we did not want to see her again," Knox wrote.

Cumberland "never once" came to the lodge after that — until, the court documents claim, last week.

Dog-eating wolf prowling area, affidavit says

Knox wrote that Watson was alone at Braeburn Lodge Friday when Cumberland entered and "demanded" that he "give her cinnamon buns."

"Mr. Watson refused and told her to leave the Lodge," the affidavit claims.

"[Cumberland] refused, she ran past Mr. Watson and went into our private residences. There, she took Taya and darted out of the Lodge."

Watson, according to the affidavit, can "barely walk" and was unable to stop the alleged dognapping.

Knox's affidavit says she's "extremely worried for Taya," both because she believes Cumberland won't be able to properly care for her, and because of another apparent looming danger.

"Just earlier this month, I had to call conservation officers about a lone wolf hanging out around Braeburn Lodge... I am very worried," Knox's affidavit reads, adding that the animal has already eaten a 150-pound, 14-year-old husky cross that belonged to the lodge.

"It's only a matter of time," the affidavit claims, "before the defendant forgets to feed Taya or leaves her somewhere at the mercy of the wolf."